In my last article I discussed the myth of busyness equating to increased productivity.
In the 1980s, this was more true than it is today. If someone was busy, back then, it could be true that they were being productive in their busyness.
Today’s definition of busyness does not necessarily equate to productivity. These days, with technology underlying everything we do, one can be very busy, yet get ‘nothing’ done. How many of us spend a good chunk of our first day back at work after some time off, simply reading through and replying to emails, for example.
What defines productivity?
In order to be productive, you need to assess each task or activity that comes your way by asking the question ‘is this a worthy way to spend my time?’.
Bear in mind though, that productivity and how you define it is different for everyone. One person can define a power walk in their lunch break as productive because they have carved out some time to exercise and clear their minds and will be able to perform better at work in the afternoon. Others may see this as unproductive time that can be better spent in meetings kicking business goals. One person may want to get as much off their work plate as possible on a Friday so they have the weekend entirely free to focus on their family and time off. Another person may find it more valuable to carve out some time on a Saturday to finish off work projects they couldn’t get to during the week.
Everyone’s definition of productivity is different depending on who they are and what they value.
One of the best things to do therefore is create systems in our everyday lives that encourage us to not simply do things on autopilot, but to stop, reflect and ask the question is the right way to spend my time?
Is this the right way to do it?
Does this represent who I am and am I being true to myself and my values by doing this?
Why am I spending time doing this?
Here is a simple technique to get you on your way to a more productive you.
Re-think how you use your To-Do List
In Charles Duhigg’s book “Smarter, Faster, Better”, he talks about how we should re-evaluate how we traditionally do a ‘to do’ list. He suggests we rename the classic ‘to-do’ list, where we jot down all the things we need to do in a day or a week, to be called a ‘memory list’, as this is simply a means to keep track of all the things in our head that we know we need to do.
From this ‘memory list’ you can create a ‘to-do’ list each day or each week, that should only have a maximum of three things. It forces you to look at your memory list and select what is the most important thing to do today.
This system is a good way to get you to prioritise the things you need to do rather than simply ticking off the boxes of what needs to get done where you may risk not getting to the most important things on your list.
Prioritisation leads to increased productivity
Being productive is not about the volume of tasks you complete, its about the significance of them.
Completing three big or important tasks is more impactful than getting through twenty little tasks, or tasks that don’t really do much to create more time in the future.
By proritising your time and becoming more productive, not only will you be simplifying your life, you will in fact be creating more time to do the things that matter most to you.
How do you know what to proiritise?
In order to pick what things we need to prioritise we need to differentiate between tasks that we gravitate to because they are easy or satisfying to tackle versus those that are more important but seem harder to do.
Upon looking at a classic ‘to-do’ list, it feels good to tick things off the list even if they are not the most important things to do, so we fall into the habit of doing the less important things first, because we get the satisfaction of being able to cross them of the list.
This helps us feel like we are being more productive when in fact we are not being productive and creating more problems for ourselves as we are not tackling the bigger, more important tasks. A good indicator of what needs to be prioritised is going against this impulse and picking the task that causes you the most stress of repels you the most.
Ask the question, how will you feel if this gets done today or this week?
If you actually get the task done, you will be ticking off a very big item on your to-do list, and most importantly you’ll be releasing all that emotion and stress associated with the task. In effect you’ll be freeing yourself up to tackle even bigger and impactful tasks. This way of forcing yourself in prioritising the things you need to do, makes you more productive and more successful in the long run.
If you’d like to learn more don’t hesitate to get in touch with me today.